One day before convention, more controversy emerges in Salt Lake County Republican Party

Candidate for GOP county chair claims her opponent used his position within the party to boost his chances.

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) A delegate holds a flyer featuring Republican Central Committee members and their attendance rates at the Salt Lake County Republican Party organizing convention, April 13, 2019, at Cottonwood High School. Salt Lake County GOP delegates will elect new leaders Saturday amid allegations one candidate has been using his insider status to boost his prospects in the race for chair.

In a whirlwind two weeks where several women alleged a toxic environment, prompting widespread rebukes and the abrupt resignation of the chairman, another imbroglio has emerged in the Salt Lake County Republican Party, just one day before its delegates are set to elect new leadership.

Friday morning, former Utah GOP state chair Rob Anderson sent an email to Chris Null, calling on him to withdraw his candidacy for county chair. Anderson alleged Null used his position on the county party’s executive committee to give himself an unfair advantage in Saturday’s convention, where party delegates will choose a new chair. Anderson’s wife, Kathleen, is also running for county party chair.

“I know first hand how important it is for party officers to remain neutral and act fairly in any election. Fairness makes an uncomfortable campaign experience more tolerable and pleasant,” Anderson wrote, going on to accuse Null of “blatantly cross[ing] the line of election fairness and integrity.”

As an example, Anderson pointed to a 7 p.m., April 8 deadline for party candidates to submit campaign videos. An attached screenshot apparently shows Null was not among those who submitted a video. When Anderson emailed acting chair Scott Rosenbush about it, Rosenbush explained the 7 p.m. deadline is not part of the party’s official convention rules, according to more screenshots.

“I do not think I need to explain the unfair advantage a candidate would have when they are allowed to tweak their message after being able to review their opponents’ campaign videos who were submitted on time,” Anderson wrote in his email to Null, which was copied to Rosenbush. “Perhaps you’ve heard of an election scandal called Watergate?”

Anderson also took issue with a candidate meet-and-greet scheduled for Friday evening, sharing an email from Null asking candidates to send donations to his Venmo account and a screenshot of an event page showing Null as the organizer.

Screenshot courtesy Robert Anderson.

“Having pondered these realities overnight, it’s evident you have had more than your foot on the scale of a fair campaign and election. You have been running the show,” Anderson wrote. “The lack of integrity on your part is unfair and unRepublican.”

Anderson further called Null “culpable” for a culture of bullying, threats and campaign interference that came to light in a Salt Lake Tribune report late last month. Ahead of the story’s publication, then-chair Scott Miller wrote a scathing email naming all of the women coming forward with allegations, questioning their motives and accusing them of trying to “cancel” him. Miller resigned his county party post less than 24 hours after the story published, but he is still running for state party chair.

“You, as a sitting member of the executive committee, failed to take action on allegations of sexual misconduct until external force was applied by a Salt Lake Tribune reporter,” Anderson wrote to Null. “I believe you and every member of the executive committee failed to do your due duty.”

Reached by phone, Null said he did his best to ensure neutrality for the upcoming party convention, despite the many challenges brought by Miller’s departure and the resignation of other members of the executive committee.

“Normally you have two months to prepare. When Scott resigned, everything fell apart,” Null said.

Regarding the videos, Null said he personally asked for the deadline so he’d have enough time to post them before the convention.

“It wasn’t a deadline based on rules, it was a deadline so I could get everything up on YouTube,” Null said.

He added that he hasn’t watched Kathleen Anderson’s video and that she’d uploaded it to her Facebook page before the deadline anyway.

Null said that he created the meet-and-greet in his role as social media manager and didn’t realize his name was attached to it as organizer. If he deleted the event under his name, it would appear canceled, Null said. He added that he intended to have someone take over his social media and web duties ahead of the convention, but with all the departures in recent weeks, available volunteers were spread too thin.

“When the others quit, they had to take over other positions,” Null said. “Bottom line, there was no one available to do what I do.”

Rosenbush, the acting chair, confirmed that he asked Null to continue with his duties.

“We tried to find somebody who could pick up those responsibilities and we were unable to do so,” Rosenbush said, also confirming that Null did not violate any convention rules with the video deadline.

Rosenbush added that he worked with Null to find other sponsors for the meet-and-greet to remove any perception that he was the event organizer.

“I think that Rob [Anderson]’s concern was more about perception or optics rather than any proactively improper acts,” Rosenbush said.

Kathleen Anderson, Null’s opponent, stood by her husband’s accusations.

“I don’t believe it was intentional ... but that doesn’t excuse it. A clear violation has occurred, they have violated neutrality,” she said. “If we can’t keep our own house in order, we have no business expecting that enforced elsewhere.”

The candidate said she’s worried about a national trend where people have trouble discerning the truth, and that “picking and choosing” which rules apply adds to public confusion.

“The rules just need to be followed, period,” she said. “I’m committed to doing just that. I believe in full transparency.”

Null said he spoke to Kathleen Anderson shortly after receiving her husband’s email to discuss the allegations, which she confirmed. Null called the conversation “amicable” and said he was “disappointed” the Andersons decided to take the claims further.

“We’re doing everything to keep our heads above the water. For Kathleen to show up now and complain, not try to help — she never once reached out and said ‘hey, what can I do?’” Null said. “That’s just not helpful. It’s just not how the party needs to run.”